South Bend shooting numbers down despite permitless gun law

Published: Jul. 18, 2023 at 7:22 PM EDT
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) - Despite a statewide permitless handgun carry law being in effect for more than a year, South Bend officials say that the number of shootings in the city has gone down compared to previous years.

HEA 1296, passed on July 1, 2022, removed the requirement to have a permit to carry a handgun in the state of Indiana. The proposed law had city leaders up in arms before it was passed.

“We had a say, and we said it, but it fell on deaf ears,” said South Bend Police Chief Scott Ruszkowski during a 2022 press conference. “The police departments said it, the Sheriff’s Association said it, the state police have said it... Don’t do this, and what did they do? They did it.”

Even with requirements being repealed, all nine counties in our viewing area (Elkhart, Fulton, Kosciusko, LaGrange, LaPorte, Marshall, Pulaski, St. Joseph, and Starke) have seen a small increase in active licenses.

According to data from the Indiana State Police, on January 1, 2022, all nine counties showed a total of 120,956 active licenses. Exactly one year later, the number of licenses increased by 3.2% to 124,869.

“As Indiana was already a ‘shall issue’ license state prior to enacting constitutional carry, I don’t believe the new law had any impact on law-abiding people who wanted to carry a concealed weapon legally,” said Terry Demaegd, a moderator for a local second amendment group.

Mayor James Mueller said that while shootings are down, they could be lower. He also adds that the lack of permit requirements makes it difficult for officers to stop gun violence in the first place.

“Now if [police] see someone carrying a gun in public, unless they have knowledge that that person is not allowed to carry it...that officer cannot go and intervene, does not have probable cause,” Mueller said.

DeMaegd added that education is important for gun owners.

“Groups composed of responsible gun owners have always stressed safety instruction, firearm training, and adherence to the law for both licensed or constitutional carry persons who want to carry a concealed weapon,” DeMaegd said.

Pierre Atlas is a senior lecturer at the O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs at IUPUI and has extensive experience working on the topic of gun culture in America.

“What the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department reported was a doubling of accidental shootings since the implementation of the permitless carry law,” said Atlas. “I think that goes to the point that, and this is my own interpretation, I think permitless carry facilitates irresponsible gun ownership. The carry license that Indiana had that ended last year served as a gatekeeper. You had to pass a criminal background check and give your fingerprints. So people who were prohibited persons automatically were rejected, and then they knew they were rejected.”

Despite the relaxed restrictions, other state and federal restrictions still stand in terms of who can and cannot possess a firearm.